Hearing it From the Top Always Helps
Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a quarterly update meeting led by the CEO of one of our clients. This company is privately held, but has adopted this quarterly update approach for a number of years for their global employee base. The CEO lays out to a live audience at headquarters and other offices around the world via webcast how the company did during the quarter and to brief them on any new developments with the firm and the industry. On occasion, this meeting is used for special employee recognitions.
The CEO did an excellent job of laying out the results in a clear, straightforward (and very concise) way that gave everyone in the company a solid picture of the company's position in the market. Also impressive was this CEO's clear explanation of financial elements of the quarter's results and description of some particularly interesting new products that have been introduced. He didn't talk down to anyone, but he made the information accessible to everyone. It was an excellent demonstration of this CEO's straightforward leadership style. After the presentation, the CEO took a handful of questions from the assembled group and from remote attendees who emailed their questions. Again, the CEO was direct and unflinching and used the answers to reinforce points made earlier in the presentation about how the company was doing.
It was an impressive performance which was short on flash and long on honest open communication from the top.
It made me wonder how many companies' CEOs take the time to offer this kind of communication to their employees on a regular basis. It's really a best practice sparked by the internal communications team, who recognize how important this is. As one of my colleagues said recently, "Senior executives don't always recognize that at the point at which they are tired of outlining information and messages, their employee base may just be beginning to fully absorb this material."
Thinking about this specific example, I can outline several benefits of regular CEO-led employee updates:
- Everyone in the company is now on the same page as the top executive with how each business is doing and how the company is doing overall.
- Internal people now have context for the messages the company is presenting externally. This makes them more effective ambassadors for the company.
- Hearing the straight scoop from the top of a company makes people feel good about working there and improves morale and retention of top talent.
- The CEO has a regular forum for public speaking and, more importantly, for learning to boil down the company's performance and messages into a concise and interesting presentation. It helps that top executive with speaking opportunities and interviews with influencers.
It takes a great deal of work and coordination to pull off this type of regular channel of information to the employee base, but it pays off in the long run. Good communication really does start at the top, don't you think?